The adolescent brain

Adolescence as a sensitive period of social brain development

  • Mon 9th May 2022

Adolescence, defined as 10-24 years, is a period of life often characterised by behaviours that can appear, prima facie, irrational such as dangerous risk-taking and impulsivity. However, these behaviours can be interpreted as adaptive and rational given that a key developmental goal of this period of life is to mature into an independent adult while navigating a social world that is unstable and changing. Research over the past two decades has demonstrated that social cognitive processes involved in navigating an increasingly complex social world develop, social influence is an important determinant of decision making and areas of the social brain undergo substantial development across adolescence. The findings suggest that adolescence might be a sensitive period of social development.

Professor Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, FRSB FBA, Professor of Psychology and Cognitive Neuroscience, University of Cambridge, UK

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore is Professor of Psychology at the University of Cambridge, UK, and leader of the Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience Group. Her group's research focuses on the development of social cognition and decision making in the human adolescent brain, and adolescent mental health. Her group runs behavioural studies in schools and in the lab, as well as neuroimaging studies, with adolescents and adults. You can read more about the group and their research here.

Professor Blakemore is Chair of the Royal Society of Biology Education and Science Policy Committee. She is an editor at Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and on the advisory board of the Lancet Child & Adolescent Health. She has been awarded national and international prizes for her research including the British Psychological Society (BPS) Doctoral Award 2001, the BPS Spearman Medal for outstanding early career research 2006, the Swedish Neuropsychology Society Award 2011, the Young Mind & Brain Prize 2013, the Royal Society Rosalind Franklin Award 2013, the Klaus J Jacobs Prize 2015, the BPS Presidents' Award 2018 and the International Union of Psychological Science Quadrennial Major Advancement in Psychological Science Prize 2020. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Biology, the British Academy and the Association of Psychological Science.

BBC The Life Scientific interview

TED talk

Book: Inventing Ourselves: the secret life of the teenage brain

Follow Professor Blakemore on twitter

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Andrew Russell, Wellcome Sanger Institute

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